The Department of Justice has filed a brief supporting construction of a mosque in Tennessee that has been burned down and vandalized. The DOJ writes that Islam is a religion and is entitled to freedom of expression. Jerry Martin, the U.S. attorney for the middle district of Tennessee, said that while the construction of the mosque is a "local matter" the department wishes to "vigorously support" granting the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro building permits. READ MORE ABOUT THE MOSQUE
CNN spoke with Camie Ayash whose husband wants to build the mosque to serve a growing population of Muslims in the mid-size city. The Islamic Center has been operating in Murfreesboro for decades but had outgrown its current building, she said.
When construction on the new building began, vandals spraypainted "Not Welcome" on the site and set fire to construction materials.
Ayash, who has a young child and another on the way, said she has received threats on the phone and through the mail. "They don't think Islam is a religion, or they think it's a religion based on violence," she said. "We are struggling to understand this, first because that's absurd, and second, because we've lived happily in this town for years." WATCH CAMIE AYASH TALK TO ANDERSON COOPER
Some opponents of the mosque have said its construction would create a traffic problem.
The head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division recently visited with area Muslims as a gesture of support.